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25 Tips for Developing with and Blending Instructional Technologies

Submitted by on July 11, 2014 – 9:06 amNo Comment

eLearning Guild


The eLearning Guild recently released the free e-book, 84 Tips on New Instructional Design for New Instructional Technology so we are going to share some of these tips we learned over the next couple weeks. The first of this series is Twenty-one Tips for Putting Learning Goals and Learners Before Technology.

For this eBook, the eLearning Guild asked 21 learning professionals who have successfully melded new instruc­tional design with new instructional technologies to give their best tips; they have highlighted the tips from their featured contributors, and you can learn more about them at the bottom of this post. Click here to access the entire free e-book.

25 Tips for Developing with and Blending Instructional Technologies

Technologies will always change. It’s important to learn the capabilities of as many technologies as possible, as well as their strengths and limitations, so you can recommend the best blend of technologies to achieve a project’s goals. –Tracy Bissette & Ian Huckabee


According to Ruth Clark, research shows that the most powerful combination of media is pictures and audio. –Dawn Adams Miller


Not every learning program needs to have a test filled with multiple-choice questions, the odd drag-and-drop, or fill-in-the-blank. Try using other means if you really need to test your students. Create a crossword puzzle and score each correct answer. Create a scenario and follow the decision trail. –Neil Lasher


Instructional design is an art, and our palette of tools is greater than ever before. Try blending multiple technologies together for greater impact. –Tracy Bissette & Ian Huckabee


Adobe Captivate can be an easy-to-use tool for creating website or software tutorials. But sometimes it can be tough to make your tutorial more than a “point and click here” exercise. Thankfully, you can leverage the basic Captivate tools to make meaningful interactions that require some thought and practice from the user, while still giving performance support.

Here’s a very simple example: Let’s say you’re creating a tutorial on navigating The eLearning Guild’s website. One of your learner’s tasks is to use the Filter feature on the Guild’s curated content. The first step in this task is to select the Filter option to activate content filters. It would be simple enough to point to the Filter radio button and instruct the learner to click on it, but this really only teaches the learner to click on items when told explicitly to do so. What happens where the learner needs to locate the Filter radio button without being told when and where to click? Here’s a simple way to boost the instructional value of your Captivate:

1. Provide a text caption that instructs the learner to click on the Filter radio button, but don’t tell them how or where to click:

Curated Content 1

2. If you’re teaching a sequence of tasks, try to put your text caption instructions in roughly the same place on each slide, so as not to confuse your learner.

3. Create a clickbox over the Filter radio button to capture successful completion of the task.

4. You’ll need to provide a safety net in case the learner can’t figure out this step on his or her own, so provide a Show Me How button. When in doubt, the learner can ask for help:

Curated Content 2

5. In case your learner clicks the Show Me How button, you’ll need to provide an additional text caption that show HOW to accomplish the task:

Curated Content 3

6. Now, on the timeline, here’s how you sequence and set the four objects you’ve created:

Curated Content 4

Let’s check out each item:

  • Click_Box_1: The clickbox the learner clicks to complete the task. This is set to go to next screen when clicked. The “pause project until user clicks” checkbox is selected.
  • Button_1: The Show Me How button. This button is set to “continue” when pressed and is set to pause.
  • Text_Caption_1: These are the instructions that tell the learner WHAT to do for this task.
  • Text_Caption_2: These are the instructions that tell the learner HOW to perform the task and they only appear if the learner clicks the Show Me How button.

Setting up these objects in this manner allows the learner to explore the interface to accomplish the identified task. The interaction tells the learner WHAT he or she is supposed to accomplish, but only tells the learner HOW to accomplish the task if he or she asks for help. This can dramatically boost the instructional value of your software or website instructional simulations.

-Joe Totherow


Developing and producing high-quality training or strategic-communications videos is complex, resource heavy, and time consuming. Executed properly, high-quality media is an invaluable asset to an organization’s strategic goals and its brand. In contrast, poorly produced multimedia creates roadblocks to organiza­tional effectiveness, inhibits learning, and reduces employee engagement.

By focusing on the three pillars of production success – partnerships, filmis value, and multi-use—organizations can create engaging content that positively im­pacts business outcomes and culture.

Contracting with the right communications firm is paramount for a successful multimedia production. Effective campaigns rely on fluid collaboration among senior leadership, forward-thinking instructional and communication design­ers, and a skilled producer/director. An evenly left- and right-brained producer/ director ensures the ideal balance between education (internal or consumer) and entertainment by translating organizational goals into creative and visually ap­pealing storytelling. Rely on your producer/director to:

  • Turn your script into a sequence of meaningful human interactions specifi­cally crafted for the camera (blocking, scene setting, and camera positions).
  • Determine the required equipment and production personnel to film your script(s).
  • Manage and direct day-of-production technology and film crew.

The technology boom that began in 2006 drastically altered our media-con­sumption habits and expectations. Paired with our culture’s increased use of online technologies and communities, access to filmic-styled media raised view­ers’ minimum acceptance standards. In short, our production-value expecta­tions today align more with the look, style, and feel of broadcast television and high-quality professional-grade films. When producing your videos, always work towards the following filmic standards:

  • Visually pleasing imagery paired with multiple camera angles ensures viewer engagement.
  • Clean and clear audio reduces listener fatigue.
  • Short messaging (two to four minutes) holds the attention of the viewer longer, creating opportunity for deeper understanding.
  • For additional content, craft separate videos that complement one another and work together as part of a larger whole.

Creating high-quality video is expensive, time consuming, and resource inten­sive. To maximize ROI, organizations must plan and produce strategically. Re­purposing content is an effective way to maintain educational continuity and messaging consistency while supporting and promoting organizational culture and brand. When you create media to filmic standards, you can use the seamless integration of multiple video assets spanning months or even years of different productions to create a variety of new media. To maximize on your video invest­ment, consider the following:

  • Create behind-the-scenes content for internal or external social-media channels.
  • Film employee interviews that capture their personal experience and the impact of their contributions to the project.
  • Consider organizational or departmental communication needs four to six months after the completion of your current initiative. How can today’s production support future needs and goals?

Using filmic video in your training and strategic-communication initiatives may seem complex or overwhelming. However, when approached strategically, filmic video can support culture, create impactful learning opportunities, and increase employee engagement.

-Jason Fararooei, Yellow Cape Communications


Leverage internal talent, when possible. This taps into the power of learning through vicarious experience. When an employee sees his or her peer on camera acting on the desired behaviors on the job, it activates a belief that the employee who is watching can also accomplish the same. Tip: Have a casting call within your organization to identify your star performers. –Jeannie Sullivan,


Top 10 best practices for TV (video-based) learning:

  1. Establish an interdisciplinary team.
  2. Gain senior leader buy-in.
  3. Establish a media-creation partnership.
  4. Create excitement and energize core values – build culture.
  5. Produce to broadcast standards: a filmic aesthetic with perfect audio.
  6. Authentic engagement – disingenuous engagement means low to no impact.
  7. Purposefully meander to your goal – maximize pivot points.
  8. Film employee interviews – capture behind-the-scenes footage.
  9. Modularize – focus on “cores” and segment your messaging.
  10. Think four to six months ahead – repurpose for future needs.

-Jason Fararooei, Yellow Cape Communications


Invite senior leadership. Including senior leadership in the production process and having them on the shoot is the best way to gain full engagement from your talent and ensure your message is on point. – Jeannie Sullivan,


Make sure graphics/visuals contrast well against background. –Sebastian Soto Flores, RAC Insurance


Single-source your training and documentation using MadCap Flare. Flare out­puts not only to PDF but to fully editable PowerPoint slides. Although not yet a recognized output for Flare, there is a short, tested process that is available to produce this output that puts PowerPoint slides into the hands of your instruc­tors. Instructors can fully edit all of the contents. This statement is true, although tables, at this time, present some challenges. -Patricia D’Ambrosio, BA Insight


Using filmic video in your training and strategic-communication initiatives may seem complex or overwhelming. However, when approached strategically, filmic video can support culture, create impactful learning opportunities, and increase employee engagement. -Jason Fararooei, Yellow Cape Communications


To single-source for documentation and training using MadCap Flare, simply use styles, conditions, and master pages that output student and instructor guides in landscape instead of portrait mode. Chapters become labs, and numbered head­ings become exercises and practices—a trick that neither your documentation nor your training audiences will ever recognize when they view the output. -Patricia D’Ambrosio, BA Insight


For non-graphic designers, PowerPoint is a great place to create and save im­ages. Select the items, group them, and right-click to save as a JPG or PNG file. –Elizabeth Stangl, Micron Technologies


For narration, us a conversational tone. -Sebastian Soto Flores, RAC Insurance


Use free Microsoft clip art to get inspiration for themes or find image sets to use for your eLearning. Here’s a quick search for “people”: com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=people&ex=1 -Elizabeth Stangl, Micron Technologies


Make a blooper reel. Everyone loves a blooper reel; share it within the organiza­tion as a way to celebrate the project at the end of the year. Making it available to those who were part of the project is a wonderful way to say thank you. -Jeannie Sullivan,


Find an image that you like in PowerPoint clip art and find like images by search­ing by style. Type in “Style 562” for all images that look like that specific style: -Elizabeth Stangl, Micron Technologies


To capture essential review points or quizzes, create a “what you need to know” section in each chapter of your documentation. Use conditions to make these outputs as “what you need to know” sections for the documentation, and quizzes and reviews for your instructional materials. -Patricia D-Ambrosio, BA Insight


Modify Microsoft clip art to fit the look and feel of the image you want. Right-click to ungroup the image and delete the parts you don’t want, including colors. You can also add parts to your clip art. Then right-click to regroup the parts of your image. -Elizabeth Stangl, Micron Technologies


Prepare assessment questions early; it makes it easier to create content and keep on track. -Sebastian Soto Flores, RAC Insurance


Don’t know or have Photoshop? Try a free photo editor such as to create free professional-looking graphics. -Elizabeth Stangl, Micron Technologies


Ask questions. During the shoot, make time to interview the talent about their experiences. The perspectives captured in the interviews will provide valuable content to establish relevance with your audience during the post-editing pro­cess. A few questions to consider asking include:

  • How do you see this training program impacting the organization?
  • How relevant are these scenarios to what you see daily?
  • What advice would you offer to our learners (new leaders, new associates, etc.)?

-Jeannie Sullivan,


BuzzFeed-style quizzes are hot right now! Use a site like that acts as a GUI and allows for easy, fun quiz development. Here are a few things I found when using it:

  • Benefit: These quizzes are really popular now – fast, fun, easy, and attention-grabbing.
  • Benefit: You can train people and teach them facts while taking a “fun” quiz.
  • Use: Promoting an idea, an event, or as an opener for a training session.
  • Functionality: The site is easy to navigate; no technical hiccups – definitely appears better in non-IE browsers.
  • Functionality: Image upload provides a section to note the image source.
  • Functionality: You can modify the quiz after you publish it.
  • Downside: It takes a while to grab all of the photos.
  • Downside: There is no way to track the results.

-Elizabeth Stangl, Micron Technologies


Pull out the red carpet. On filming days, make your talent feel like real celebri­ties: bring in a make-up artist, set up a preview room where the talent can watch the action on set, and have lunch catered. The buzz of the experience will travel through the organization well in advance of your program launch, laying the groundwork for success. -Jeannie Sullivan,


Link your quiz to a site like to track some basic analytics, such as how many people are accessing your quiz and where those people are located. -Elizabeth Stangl, Micron Technologies

About the Featured Tipsters

Tracy BisetteTracy Bissette , Co-founder and President, Weejee Learning

In her current role, Tracy Bissette, MEd, has created enterprise-wide learning solu­tions for Fortune 500 companies including DaVita, Cisco, and Abbott Labs. Prior to co-founding Weejee Learning, she was Vice President of MindWorks Multimedia, where she created and guided the growth of an eLearning division. Tracy was se­lected by Triangle Business Journal as one of Research Triangle Park’s 2012 Top 40 under 40 Business Leaders, and has been recognized in Training Magazine’s Top 125. She speaks regularly at industry conferences on topics of best practices, emerging trends, and effective instructional-design techniques, and shares her ideas in indus­try magazines and journals.


Ian HuckabeeIan Huckabee , Co-founder and CEO, Weejee Learning

Ian Huckabee has more than 20 years of operations-management experience in communication-technology industries. Ian is a digital strategist and technologist specializing in social media and training, and has formed partnerships with leading technology companies in the learning and social-media spaces. Prior to co-founding Weejee Learning, he was Vice President of Audio Operations and Marketing for Sony Music Entertainment in New York. Ian served on the board of directors of the Consumer Electronics Association’s TechHome division, representing the wired-home channel. He currently shares his thoughts about communication trends through Weejee Learning, various online publications, and speaking engagements.


Dawn Adams MillerDawn Adams Miller, Business Engagement Manager, Cisco

Dawn Adams Miller, a business engagement manager at Cisco, has worked in the L&D field for over 20 years for companies like Accenture, Ernst & Young, and Micro­soft, and she’s run her own business designing and developing technology-delivered learning solutions. Dawn holds a master’s degree in instructional technology from Boise State University, and has received a Brandon Hall Excellence Bronze award and a CLO Gold award for her work.



Neil LasherNeil Lasher , Senior Instructional Designer, FireEye

Neil Lasher, the senior instructional designer for FireEye, is a Fellow of the UK Learn­ing and Performance Institute. Over the last 25 years, Neil has assisted hundreds of companies of all sizes with their learning design and strategy. In 2012 Neil worked for the organizing committee of the London 2012 Olympics, helping to roll out one million hours of learning to 200,000 contractors and volunteers. A recognized expert and thought leader in instructional design and workplace analytics for using technology in learning, Neil is now part of a team of experts delivering learning at FireEye, which is ranked fourth on the Deloitte 2012 Technology Fast 500.


Joe TotherowJoe Totherow, Senior Learning Technologist, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Joe Totherow, the senior learning technologist for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, has been an instructional technologist for 10 years, leveraging technology in creative ways to provide quality instruction to learners. He holds a PhD in philosophy.


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